ACTING Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia wants Jose Daluz III to stay as chairman of the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) despite the call of the employees union for the latter’s resignation.

The employees should give Daluz and the rest of the board of directors a chance to perform after experiencing hurdles due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Typhoon Odette (Rai), Garcia told SunStar Cebu Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022.

“My message to Chairman Daluz and to the board is to stay. ... I think that they should really be given a chance, considering the fact that during the pandemic all businesses did not perform well,” said Garcia.

Garcia, who was elected vice mayor, is sitting as acting mayor of Cebu City from Aug. 19 to 26 while Mayor Michael Rama is on an official business trip to Canada for the enthronement of the image of Sto. Niño de Cebu.

According to Garcia, the hurdles brought by the pandemic have prevented the MCWD officials from implementing their intended projects and programs for the water district.

MCWD serves Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Talisay City, and the towns of Consolacion, Liloan, Compostela and Cordova.

Despite the challenges, Garcia said Daluz and the rest of the board were still set to achieve some milestones like the opening of the Lusaran Bulk Water Project in September 2022.

The P1.1 billion Lusaran Bulk Water Project is expected to deliver 15,000 cubic meters of water per day by Sept. 4. It will benefit residents of Barangays Busay, Lahug, Apas, Camputhaw and Capitol Site, as well as nine mountain barangays that are not yet served by MCWD.

The MCWD officials also made a report to the City Council last week and Garcia said the councilors were very satisfied with their achievements.

“I am very happy with their performance. Despite the pandemic nga wala gyud sila naka take off ... naa na silay mga milestones nga ato nang ma feel in the coming months,” Garcia said.

Last Aug. 19, some 100 employees of MCWD walked out to protest the poor corporate performance of the government-owned utility provider, citing the drop in the district’s income to P34.27 million in 2021 from P211.35 million in 2019.

In a press conference on Aug. 18, the employees called on the MCWD board to resign, after also citing the increase in the percentage of non-revenue water from 23.66 percent in 2019 to 30.05 percent in 2021, and alleging that at the height of the pandemic and in the aftermath of Typhoon Odette, the water that was supposed to be given free to the affected residents was sold instead to hotels and restaurants.

In addition, the MEU lambasted the board for procuring millions of pesos worth of vehicles and allegedly non-functional generators instead of investing in the repair of damaged pipelines that could have reduced the volume of non-revenue water (NRW). It also accused the board of interference in the hiring process of employees.

MCWD management, on the same day, said its transactions, including the hiring process, were “above board” and that NRW increased after last December’s Typhoon Odette as the typhoon damaged several lines, causing leaks, MCWD had to rent water delivery trucks to serve consumers that did not have water due to the massive brownout, and the consumers were not charged for the water delivered to them.

In a statement sent to SunStar Cebu Tuesday, the MCWD Employees Union (MEU) said they respect Garcia’s position on the issue but that their stand on the critical financial position of the water district remains.

The MEU acknowledged the effects of the pandemic and the cataclysmic weather phenomenon, but said the expenditures of the MCWD did not translate to better water service.

“The MCWD Employees Union would not have brought this matter out into the open if the ‘alkanse sa ginansya’ brought more affordable water, served more people, provided better quality service,” read a portion of the statement.

The union also received reports that MCWD General Manager Stephen Yee and Daluz are considering filing criminal charges against MEU officers for “coming out into the open.”

“This, instead of addressing our questions and answering their accountability to the water consumers in particular and the public in general. They call us a group of ‘syndicates’ and ‘demonic’ for letting the figures and the truth out. Magpabilin ang among panawagan, layas! (Our call remains, leave!)” MEU said.